Press Releases

CWA to American Airlines: What Are You Afraid of? Let Agents Vote

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Washington, D.C. -- American Airlines is back in court, trying again to stop 10,000 passenger service agents from exercising their right to vote in a democratic, union representation election.

After losing at every turn, the airline now is seeking a preliminary injunction and restraining order to stop the agents’ vote, but its motion is based on claims that have been discredited by Senate leaders responsible for making congressional intent clear.

“Why is American Airlines so afraid of agents exercising their democratic right to vote? The airline is doing everything it can think of to stop passenger service agents from having the vote they deserve, even filing court actions based on claims that have been rejected by lawmakers who wrote the legislation being cited,” said CWA Organizing Director Sandy Rusher. “It’s just un-American.”

“The airline claims it has a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, but Senate leaders have told American Airlines that its interpretation of the law is wrong,” Rusher said. “American Airlines’ argument of ‘irreparable injury’ is based on that same wrong interpretation. It has no grounds for this action.” The Department of Justice also has said the airline's claims are without merit. 

In a May 15 letter to American Airlines CEO Thomas Horton, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Committee Chairmen John Rockefeller, Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Tom Harkin, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, wrote, “We regret that the issue of retroactive applicability of the Federal Aviation Administration amendments (adopted in February) needs to be litigated. Beyond the clearly established precedent that limits the retroactivity of changes in the law, in this case, Congress included specific language in the amendments addressing this issue….  

The Senate went even further, they wrote, with floor discussion by the two leading chairmen, Rockefeller and Harkin, confirming that “the showing of interest requirement set forth in this legislation should only apply prospectively.”

Clearly, American Airlines knows it won’t prevail. But stalling and blocking agents’ democratic right to vote is all part of the airlines’ bigger plan, to use bankruptcy to devastate the jobs, benefits, working conditions and bargaining rights of all workers at the airline.

American Airlines filed for bankruptcy with $4 billion in the bank and has pressed the bankruptcy judge to throw out existing union contracts; so far, the judge has not agreed.

“Today’s action makes American Airlines’ agenda all too clear. The passenger service group has been organizing for a union voice for several years, and the airline doesn’t want that to happen, especially while it pursues its ‘pseudo-bankruptcy,’” Rusher said. 

In May, American Airlines filed a lawsuit against the National Mediation Board, defying the Board’s legal order for the airline to supply mailing information so the election could proceed. The NMB moved forward on the election, pointing out that the agency’s longstanding policy and the intent of the Railway Labor Act is to resolve representation disputes “as expeditiously as possible.” As a result of American Airlines’ lawsuit, “the case has already been delayed for four weeks.” A new voting period was set for June 21-Aug. 2, with notification to the airline set for June 14.


Contact: Candice Johnson or Chuck Porcari, CWA Communications, 202-434-1168, and